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Keshav Khanna

IWB Blogger

Lavalina Sogani Of Vimukti School Tells Us How She Is Bringing Progressive Education To Jaipur Slums

  • IWB Post
  •  February 9, 2018

 

Recently, we had the opportunity to create a podcast with the remarkable Lavalina Sogani, the founder of the Vimukti School for underprivileged girls from the slums of Jaipur.

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In our conversation at her school, she told me about her empathy and desire to do good for the little girls, who just happened to be born in unfortunate circumstances.

Today Vimukti has over 600 girls from the slum areas that are now learning in smart classes. The sight of her school with a bulletin board reading, “Welcome Back to School,” was wonderful. It fills my heart with happiness that these little girls are getting many of the same opportunities that I got.

Here is an excerpt of our conversation.

Let’s jump right into it and talk about your childhood. Because it wouldn’t be wrong to say that a person’s childhood affects who they are. 

Ms. Sogani: I’ve never had to face that problem ever in my childhood. Because both my father and my mother were very particular to bring us up in a very different way from what girls in those days were brought up as. We were able to travel anywhere we wanted, we were able to go out at night, and there were no restrictions on what we wanted to do. We were shoulder to shoulder with any man; I am talking about a good 40 years back. That contributes to why I felt that these girls from the slums, they should also have that kind of a childhood. They needed to have that kind of freedom, which I felt I had always had. I’m trying to educate the parents to try to do something to the extent of what I had.

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You say that you came from a progressive family, but you married into a conservative family. How was that transition like?

Ms. Sogani: It was definitely a challenging task. But once I decided I needed to return to my values, change started happening. Gradually they all started moving towards the progressive values I had come with. Like right from my Mother-in-law, the support I got was just fantastic. It took a while, but slowly and steadily that change came. Now everyone in the family from my parents to my in-laws, to my husband and children are all so proud of what Vimukti is doing. And if it hadn’t been for their support, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

Do you feel that the way our society is raising little girls, is encouraging the inherent patriarchy that these girls then grow up with?

Ms. Sogani: Yes, I think it does. Because nowadays in cities children are increasingly seeing their parents work shoulder to shoulder and that is definitely changing their opinion of the gender roles. But in the lower middle-class strata, that is not the case. Because the wife is working, the husband is drinking. He is passed out on the bed and she is working as a domestic help, cleaning houses.

So what does the child see? That my father has the luxury of sleeping the whole day and the mother must keep slogging. That is why I feel it is essential that these children are taken out of their surroundings for a few hours so they can have some exposure. And I strongly feel that what we’re doing is making some difference. For example, when we started the school with only 24 children, only mothers would come to the PTMs. But now that we have 600 students we have a lot of fathers turning up too!

Tell us a little bit about how you came to meet some of the girls currently in your school. How does the admission process of Vimukti differ from a regular school?

Ms. Sogani: Our admission process is actually very specific. When we started this school, we simply sent out fliers to the slums in Jawahar Nagar. After that the next day there was a huge line in front of our building. Subsequently, every year that line has only gotten bigger. Around February-March people come pouring in inquiring about the admissions. We have lines of literally a 1000-1500 people usually.

We have the parents fill out an application. Then we look at a lot of different factors like the income, the number of members working in the family, the location of their residence, and a little bit of merit as well.

Last year we took around a 100, this year we’ve taken a 120.

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This is only a part of my conversation with Lavalina Sogani. We further went on to talk about drop-out rates, reasons for the lack of schooling for girls and more. You can listen to the entire conversation on SoundCloud below. Alternatively, you can listen to it on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio or your favorite podcast app. Just enter “IWB Pods” in the search bar and hit “Subscribe.”

 

This article was first published on May 25, 2017.

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